The Conscious Fund Talks To… Nikolai Vassev
Founder & CEO at Mindleap Health
We sat down with Nikolai Vassev, software developer and co-founder and CEO at Mindleap Health, a psychedelic integration app aimed to connect psychedelic medicine patients with mental healthcare professionals.
How and why did you get involved in the psychedelics?
My background is in software, mainly business development and partnerships. I worked for two leading European software firms for several years. During that time I fractured my tailbone, falling on jagged rocks in a cave in Croatia. I gained 30 pounds, I got pretty depressed. The job was very intense, moving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of software per month. The deal sizes weren’t that big, you know you’d get 20–30 customers a month which is really hard psychologically. I was overweight and depressed and it was a psychedelic experience that helped me overcome that and end up moving on and changing my life, changing my habits, changing my job.I’d always thought psychedelics were like for hippies, I was scared of mushrooms. It wasn’t meant to be a therapeutic thing, but it ended up being a therapeutic thing. We were in the forest and next to this lake and it was just like seeing the beauty of life and being able to make sense of where I was at and what was important to me.
And then last year I flew to the Netherlands and over there is where I had the more professional and by the book psychedelic experience. When I came back I looked for an integration specialist first locally, some therapists laughed at me, you know “this is not approved, you went to the Netherlands, blah blah blah” so I started looking on the internet and then realized there are a lot of integration specialists but no real platform to find out who are the best ones, to actually schedule a time with them, to book a call, to pay, you know there was nothing built in, there was no secure video platform. So I brought one of our top software engineers from a previous company and we got a software developing team, designed it, started building it, and launched it this September.
We’ve had about 2,000 downloads so far and some really cool success stories of people having great experiences. Now we’re in the process of building out on some of our on-demand programs. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic people are in hard financial situations, it can be really hard to afford some of these services and psychedelics aren’t covered by insurance, so we wanted to offer additional support. People can access world class coaching, but on-demand through audio on the Mindleap app. So we’re in the process of not only developing these programs for psychedelics but expanding into cognitive therapy programs, meditation, as well as integration programs, and a self-mastery program, and we’re looking to find additional experts to help develop and expand our portfolio.
You’ve talked a lot about the apps. Based on your current plans where do you see yourself 5 years from now, what other new plans or initiatives might transpire?
I see myself at the helm of Mindless where we are impacting millions of people, not only with offering psychedelic aftercare but also more conventional mental health solutions. We’re really looking to expand our roster of great specialists and expand additional services so we are able to impact millions of people around the world. That’s why we are really focused on our digital programs because it’s fully international and it’s fully scalable, where people anywhere in the world can access these programs. We are building great partnerships with psychedelic clinics and psychedelic organizations where we are able to really offer people on-demand access to psychedelic therapy work. Additionally we really want to get into the arena of digital phenotyping — being able to predict how a person feels based on different ways they are using their phone and different behaviors they are having and being able to share that with the practitioner, the clinic, and each patient being able to know themselves better and track their progress using this data on their phones.
What do you think is lacking in the public discourse surrounding psychedelics?
I think it’s really about a question of education and safe use. What we’ve been working on is a video series called “the Psychedelic Scientist” where we have researchers and PhD students break down the conversation around psychedelics and share the latest research. We’ve been collaborating with other educational institutions as well.There are so many people who are doing them on their own and there are a lot of different guides on how to do them. We just hope that people aren’t looking at psychedelics as this magic pill — a one time solution to their problems — it really takes work after and integration work for people to transform their lives. It’s not easy, it’s a journey, it’s something that is personal, but working with a professional afterwards can be life changing.
Our parent company, Mydecine, is working on really developing the world’s first naturally sourced extract of psilocybin where they actually have laboratories where plant scientists are really developing great formulations and great extractions. The problem with the natural psilocybin, taking the mushroom itself, is that 90% of it is not psilocybin. It’s really hard to extract it properly. The chief science officer Rob Roscoe actually has done some revolutionary work with cannabis plants and he’s really revolutionized THC and CBD extraction. He’s really taking that knowledge that he has and using it to develop very safe and exact formations that could be used for psychedelic healing in a regulated scenario.
In terms of publicity, what is one thing you wish everyone knew about the work that you are doing?
I think a lot of people don’t know about Mindleap because it is so new. Mindleap is available on the iOS and Android store for download.
Also another thing, all our mental health coaches are really experienced and can provide other mental health coaching as well. For example, one of my friends was using Mindleap and going through relationship difficulties with his fianceé. So I told him we have great mental health coaches with experience in relationships and he was like ‘well I thought this was all about psychedelics.’ And it is mainly for that, but you can use Mindleap for various other types of mental health coaching. We are in the process of making that more prominent, so you can have Mindleap recommend you a specialist based on behavior and what your goals are. That’s something that will allow us to grow and allow us to provide more value with specialists on the platform and help connect people with the right practitioner.
What do you think is one simple thing that anyone out there can do to educate themselves and make a difference?
Psychedelics aren’t for everybody. It’s important to learn more about it. It might be really helpful to read the book “How to Change Your Mind.” It’s one of the most popular resources for psychedelics and I think a lot of people start there. There are also a lot of documentaries out there about some of the research. Check out the ‘Psychedelic Scientist’ videos as well. I think a lot of new stuff will be coming out soon, there are so many amazing companies, so many specific solutions to a range of conditions. It’s important to be knowledgeable about it and be cautious about why you’re doing it and making sure you’re doing it safely. Maybe, looking to fly out to the Netherlands and doing it. I think there’s a lot of great resources for those who really want to learn more about it, I think it’s important to just kind of start. I’m more of an audio visual person, so I started with audible, Michael Pollan’s book and then YouTube documentary binging and learning as much about it as possible.